So last night’s Wilco show demonstrated a few things to me:
First: In the two years since A Ghost is Born, the band has not written a whole lot of new songs. Or, if they have, they don’t particularly care for them. I’m leaning towards the former. I’m not blaming them — they did a ton of touring behind that album, and since that time Jeff and/or Glen have been involved with new Loose Fur, Minus 5 and Golden Smog discs, Glen put out a solo album, and Jeff did his own solo tour.
But there’s simply no getting around the fact that, with the exception of one or two songs, they’re playing the exact same set of music in 2006 that they’ve been playing for years. (Yes, they’re still playing “Kingpin.”) Maybe it’s just that I’ve been fortunate enough to see them a lot of times during this period, but it’s starting to feel a little… by the numbers. Even without new songs, couldn’t they at least have gone back and added in “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”, “I Got You (At the End of the Century)”, “ELT”, “Nothing’severgonnastantinmyway (Again)”, or anything off of A.M.? As my friend Matt pointed out, this band has a huge catalog of originals and covers to pull from. Why keep playing the same 15-20 songs?
Second: This is the strongest Wilco lineup ever, musically. I think we all realized this on the last tour, but what I learned last night was that this band can sound spectacular, and near-perfect, even when they’re mailing it in.
And, yes, 60% of last night’s show was mailed in. It wasn’t until 2/3 of the way through the main set, when the band played “Spiders” (or was it “At Least That’s What You Said”?), that the band really seemed to wake up and start playing with some excitement. Once they did, they were unstoppable. But for a while there, I wasn’t sure whether the band wanted to be there, and I wasn’t sure I did either.
[Maybe it was just that no one wanted to be in New Jersey. I know I didn't. ;^)]
Third: Speaking of New Jersey, I realized last night that serious bands shouldn’t play there. Twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve attempted, without real success, to articulate my biggest gripe about the current “indie rock” music scene. I call it the Invasion of the Party People. You know these people. It’s 80% of a Bruce Springsteen crowd. It’s 90% of a U2 crowd. It’s 95% of a Billy Joel crowd. It’s 100% of a Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett or Lynyrd Skynyrd crowd. It’s the people who view concert-going as a 3 or 4 time a year, get-your-beer-beer-on-and-PAR-TAY! kind of thing. In other words, indie rock shows have become places to be seen and to get drunk.
This scourge is happening all over the place, but it’s even worse when a band decides to do a show in the heart of darkness itself (New Jersey). That’s when you get idiots like the dude behind me and my friends who wouldn’t stop yelling “Wilco and Jersey — Perfect Together!” Or the 19 year-old girls to my right who literally screeched every time the band played a song they recognized. Or the dude who pissed Jeff Tweedy off so much that Tweedy stopped the show and, in a “I’m pretending to be joking” kind of way, told the guy to go to hell.
Not that every indie show should be full of toe-tapping, arms-crossed record store clerks. That’s not fair to the band, who want excitement from the crowd, and who themselves often feed off of that excitement. But there’s a difference between an excited, enthusiastic crowd and the Party People. A big one.
Fourth: Despite all of my bitching, they’re still one of my favorite bands of all time.
Onto the pictures:
If you want to see more photos (good, bad and somewhere in between) from this show or any other I’ve attended recently, I’ve added a link on the left-hand side to my public Flickr account. Feel free to check it out!